Swisher's still sweet on cigars. Swisher International -- not to be confused with the restroom hygiene services provider of the same name -- produces mass-market large cigars, such as Swisher Sweets, King Edward, and Optimo; premium cigars such as Dominican Hallmark and Casino Gold; and little cigars (cigarillos), which also use the Swisher Sweets and King Edward brand names. The company also makes smokeless tobacco products. Its moist and dry snuff offerings include the Silver Creek, Redwood, and Kayak brands; loose-leaf chewing tobacco sells under the Mail Pouch, Lancaster, and Chattanooga Chew names. An investment firm once controlled by the late William Ziegler III took Swisher private in 1999.
William Ziegler III, who died in 2008 after a long illness, was replaced in the executive suite by his son William T. Zeigler.
Swisher, which makes its cigars in the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Nicaragua, and the US, ships billions of its products to more than 60 countries. The company also sells Swisher-branded apparel and lighters.
While the premium cigar fad has faded, Swisher's primary target has always been the lower-priced mass-market, which has remained relatively steady. The tobacco company also chases after a younger market by making a more pleasant peach-tip and grape-tip Swisher cigar. Due to its marketing strategy, Swisher has been under the watchful eye of the FDA, which in 2009 banned sales of flavored cigarettes other than menthol and could be looking to extend the reach of its ban to products labeled as cigars.
A potential damper on sales for Swisher, the downturn in the economy spurred federal entities to boost its tax rates on tobacco products to make up for shortfalls elsewhere. Manufacturers that produce and sell little cigars, such as the firm's Swisher Sweets and King Edward brands, were hit with a higher federal excise tax if their products weighed three pounds or less per thousand.
Swisher also has expanded its products portfolio in recent years to include Swisher Sweeties camisole tops and its Sweeties calendar, akin to the iconic Sports Illustrated one. – less